What a weekend!
I spent most of my time at the PAX booth, demoing Schizoid, which went very well - we were nicely located between Starcraft 2 and Little Big Planet - so there was a lot of foot traffic, and I was surprised to find out that despite all the downloads we've gotten on Xbox Live Arcade, most people didn't realize that Schizoid was out and available now. Anyhow, people loved it - they'd say "I'm going home to download this right now" and they were laughing and yelling at each other and trash talking and all the good stuff that Schizoid is about.
And, finally got to play all the other PAX 10 games. In case you don't know, the PAX 10 is Penny Arcade's choice of best independent games of the year. So we're in very good company. Let me give you a rundown:
Amazing Brain Train: I'm not into brain training games, but this is the best one I've seen. The graphics are great, it has lots of character, and most of the minigames are minigames you've never seen before. It's available now.
Audiosurf: I've played other games that let you use your own music in the game...and they're lame. Simple beat-matching exercises without the feeling of actually creating the music yourself. Audiosurf fixes that by making a game that's actually interesting that's tied into your music - and it gets pretty intense. It's available now.
Chronotron: I probably shouldn't play favorites, but Chronotron is actually my favorite of the PAX 10 - I do love me puzzle games, but they have to be new puzzles, puzzles I've never seen before. Chronotron gives you new time-travel puzzles and explores them deeply: think the third world of Braid, with the shadow-self, then multiplied - though Joe hadn't played Braid while he was developing Chronotron. It's available now and it's free.
The Maw: You lead a big mouth around on an electric leash. The characters are cute, round, brightly colored and well-animated - considering "The Maw" is basically a blob with mouth and eyes, he shows a heck of a lot of emotion.
Impulse & Strange Attractors 2: Although these are different games, they have a lot in common - you don't directly control your avatar, you use indirect forces to move your avatar through the levels, and you discover a certain poetry-in-motion in both games. Strange Attractors 2 is available now.
Polarity: Again, I love me puzzle games - Polarity is a side-scrolling platformer with magnetism-related puzzles that I'd never seen before. Very clever. It's available now and it's free.
Project Aftermath: I wouldn't have been surprised to see this game in a retail box for $50. It's a very professional polished RTS, but without all that lame economy stuff you normally have to deal with - it gets right to the killing.
Sushi Bar Samurai: I didn't get to play this one as much as I would have liked, but it's visually stunning - while the title made me think it would be cartoony, it actually has lush rendered environments of japanese gardens and a very zen aesthetic. You make sushi for unhappy souls - each soul is a "sushi puzzle", where you try to figure out what sushi will satiate them and allow them to transcend.
In short, I was more impressed by the stuff I saw in the PAX 10 booth than most of the rest of the show...although maybe that's because the lines at Spore and Little Big Planet were just too long and I didn't get to get a good look at them, nothing else I got to see really stood out. As one guy visiting our booth put it, "There's more creativity in the PAX 10 booth than the rest of the show floor."
Particularly impressive, considering we were all self-funded! A lot of games get entered into the IGF that are technically indy but actually might have a million dollars in VC funding or hundreds of thousands of dollars of small publisher funding - and sure, they're a lot more indy than your multi-million dollar retail console game, but it does make you wonder where to draw the line. The PAX games were all built on the cheap, out of passion and sweat.
What else happened at PAX? I did captain a team in Chatterbox's family feud game vs. my new arch-nemesis, Bret Alfieri of Strange Attractors 2 - and we got totally shut out. I blame myself. Hey, I'm old, and remembered videogame consoles like Colecovision and videogame slogans like "Do The Math" - not popular results among Penny Arcade readers, apparently.